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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864

A doppelgänger (/ˈdɒpəlˌɡɛŋər/ or /-ˌɡæŋər/; German: [ˈdɔpl̩ˌɡɛŋɐ], literally "double-goer") is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions and stories equate a doppelgänger with an evil twin. In modern times, the term twin stranger is occasionally used.[1][2]

The word "doppelgänger" is often used in a more general and neutral sense to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person.


The word doppelgänger is a loanword from the German Doppelgänger, consisting of the two substantives Doppel (double) Gänger (walker or goer).[3][4] The singular and plural forms are the same in German, but English usually prefers the plural "doppelgängers." It was first used by Jean Paul in the novel Siebenkäs (1796), and his newly coined word is explained by a footnote.

As is true for all other nouns in German, the word is written with an initial capital letter. In English, the word should be uncapitalized (doppelgänger). It is also common to drop the diacritic umlaut, writing "doppelganger."


The application by English-speakers of this German word to the paranormal concept is relatively recent; Francis Grose's Provincial Glossary of 1787 included the term fetch instead, defined as the "apparition of a person living." A best-selling book on paranormal phenomena, Catherine Crowe's The Night-Side of Nature (1848), helped make the German word well-known. However, the concept itself, of alter egos and double spirits, has appeared in the folklore, myths, religious concepts, and traditions of many cultures throughout human history.[5]

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, a ka was a tangible "spirit double" having the same memories and feelings as the person to whom the counterpart belongs. In one Egyptian myth entitled, The Greek Princess, an Egyptian view of the Trojan War, a ka of Helen was used to mislead Paris of Troy, helping to stop the war.[citation needed]. This is depicted in Euripides' play, "Helen."

In Norse mythology, a vardøger is a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance. In Finnish mythology, this is called having an etiäinen,[6][7][8] i.e., "a firstcomer".[9] (see also Christfrid Ganander's Mythologia Fennica)

In Breton mythology as well as in Cornish and Norman French folklore, the doppelgänger is a version of the Ankou, a personification of death.[citation needed]



In Prometheus Unbound by English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, the concept of a doppelgänger double was described as a counterpart to the self. American writer Edgar Allan Poe's story "William Wilson" (1839) describes the double with the sinister, demonic qualities of a pursuer or challenger of the real self's psychological equilibrium. English poet Lord Byron used doppelgänger imagery to explore the duality of human nature.[10] Russian Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky's novel The Double represents the doppelgänger as an opposite personality who exploits the character failings of the protagonist to take over his life. Charles Williams Descent into Hell (1939) has character Pauline Anstruther seeing her own doppelgänger all through her life.[11] Clive Barker's story "Human Remains" in his Books of Blood is a doppelgänger tale. The doppelgänger motif is a staple of Gothic fiction, arguably its central expression of character.

John Donne[edit]

Izaak Walton claimed that John Donne, the English metaphysical poet, saw his wife's doppelgänger in 1612 in Paris, on the same night as the stillbirth of their daughter.

Two days after their arrival there, Mr. Donne was left alone, in that room in which Sir Robert, and he, and some other friends had dined together. To this place Sir Robert returned within half an hour; and, as he left, so he found Mr. Donne alone; but, in such ecstasy, and so altered as to his looks, as amazed Sir Robert to behold him in so much that he earnestly desired Mr. Donne to declare befallen him in the short time of his absence? to which, Mr. Donne was not able to make a present answer: but, after a long and perplext pause, did at last say, I have seen a dreadful Vision since I saw you: I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms: this, I have seen since I saw you. To which, Sir Robert replied; Sure Sir, you have slept since I saw you; and, this is the result of some melancholy dream, which I desire you to forget, for you are now awake. To which Mr. Donnes reply was: I cannot be surer that I now live, then that I have not slept since I saw you: and am, as sure, that at her second appearing, she stopped, looked me in the face, and vanished.[12]

This account first appears in the edition of Life of Dr. John Donne published in 1675, and is attributed to "a Person of Honour... told with such circumstances, and such asseveration, that... I verily believe he that told it me, did himself believe it to be true. "At the time Donne was indeed extremely worried about his pregnant wife, and was going through severe illness himself. However, R. C. Bald points out that Walton's account

is riddled with inaccuracies. He says that Donne crossed from London to Paris with the Drurys in twelve days, and that the vision occurred two days later; the servant sent to London to make inquiries found Mrs. Donne still confined to her bed in Drury House. Actually, of course, Donne did not arrive in Paris until more than three months after he left England, and his wife was not in London but in the Isle of Wight. The still-born child was buried on 24 January.... Yet as late as 14 April Donne in Paris was still ignorant of his wife's ordeal.[13] In January, Donne was still at Amiens. His letters do not support the story as given.[14]

Percy Bysshe Shelley[edit]

On July 8, 1822, the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Bay of Spezia near Lerici in Italy. On August 15, while staying at Pisa, Percy's wife Mary Shelley, an author and editor, wrote a letter to Maria Gisborne in which she relayed Percy's claims to her that he had met his own doppelgänger. A week after Mary's nearly fatal miscarriage, in the early hours of June 23 Percy had had a nightmare about the house collapsing in a flood, and

... talking it over the next morning he told me that he had had many visions lately — he had seen the figure of himself which met him as he walked on the terrace and said to him — "How long do you mean to be content" — No very terrific words & certainly not prophetic of what has occurred. But Shelley had often seen these figures when ill; but the strangest thing is that Mrs. Williams saw him. Now Jane, though a woman of sensibility, has not much imagination & is not in the slightest degree nervous — neither in dreams or otherwise. She was standing one day, the day before I was taken ill, [June 15] at a window that looked on the Terrace with Trelawny — it was day — she saw as she thought Shelley pass by the window, as he often was then, without a coat or jacket — he passed again — now as he passed both times the same way — and as from the side towards which he went each time there was no way to get back except past the window again (except over a wall twenty feet from the ground) she was struck at seeing him pass twice thus & looked out & seeing him no more she cried — "Good God can Shelley have leapt from the wall?.... Where can he be gone?" Shelley, said Trelawny — "No Shelley has past — What do you mean?" Trelawny says that she trembled exceedingly when she heard this & it proved indeed that Shelley had never been on the terrace & was far off at the time she saw him.[15]

Percy Shelley's drama Prometheus Unbound (1820) contains the following passage in Act I: "Ere Babylon was dust, / The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child, / Met his own image walking in the garden. / That apparition, sole of men, he saw. / For know there are two worlds of life and death: / One that which thou beholdest; but the other / Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit / The shadows of all forms that think and live / Till death unite them and they part no more...."[16]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe[edit]

Near the end of Book XI of his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit ("Poetry and Truth") (1811-1833), Goethe wrote, almost in passing:

Amid all this pressure and confusion I could not forego seeing Frederica once more. Those were painful days, the memory of which has not remained with me. When I reached her my hand from my horse, the tears stood in her eyes; and I felt very uneasy. I now rode along the foot-path toward Drusenheim, and here one of the most singular forebodings took possession of me. I saw, not with the eyes of the body, but with those of the mind, my own figure coming toward me, on horseback, and on the same road, attired in a dress which I had never worn, — it was pike-gray [hecht-grau], with somewhat of gold. As soon as I shook myself out of this dream, the figure had entirely disappeared. It is strange, however, that, eight years afterward, I found myself on the very road, to pay one more visit to Frederica, in the dress of which I had dreamed, and which I wore, not from choice, but by accident. However, it may be with matters of this kind generally, this strange illusion in some measure calmed me at the moment of parting. The pain of quitting for ever noble Alsace, with all I had gained in it, was softened; and, having at last escaped the excitement of a farewell, I, on a peaceful and quiet journey, pretty well regained my self-possession.[17]

This is an example of a doppelgänger which was perceived by the observer to be both benign and reassuring.

George Tryon[edit]

A Victorian age example was the supposed appearance of Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon. He was said to have walked through the drawing room of his family home in Eaton Square, London, looking straight ahead, without exchanging a word to anyone, in front of several guests at a party being given by his wife on 22 June 1893 while he was supposed to be in a ship of the Mediterranean Squadron, manoeuvering off the coast of Syria. Subsequently, it was reported that he had gone down with his ship, HMS Victoria, the very same night, after it collided with HMS Camperdown following an unexplained and bizarre order to turn the ship in the direction of the other vessel.[18]

Twin strangers[edit]

With the advent of social media, there have been several reported cases of people finding their "twin stranger" online, a modern term for a doppelgänger which exists in reality.[19][20], a website where users can upload a photo of themselves and facial recognition software attempts to match them with another user of like appearance, reports that it has found numerous living doppelgängers—including three living doppelgängers of its founder Niamh Geaney.[21][22] Other reported cases have been The Independent's profile of Cordelia Roberts and Ciara Murphy[20] and the Daily Star's report of Neil Douglas who met his look-alike on a flight.[19]

In December 2016, a Channel 4 documentary called "Finding My Twin Stranger" featured a study by the Department of Twin Research at St Thomas' Hospital in London in which seven pairs of similar looking people were examined. The tests included empirical measures of the similarities of their features, and a DNA analysis.[23]


The presence and activities of doppelgangers is a major theme of “Twin Peaks: The Return”, a dramatic television series presented on the American cable network Showtime in May–September 2017. The central character, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, exists at various times in six distinct aspects, one of which is evil. However, at least one of these separate beings is shown to be a tulpa (a concept from Tibetan mythology, translated as “thoughtform”), rather than a doppelganger.


Heautoscopy is a term used in psychiatry and neurology for the reduplicative hallucination of "seeing one's own body at a distance".[24] It can occur as a symptom in schizophrenia[25] and epilepsy. Heautoscopy is considered a possible explanation for doppelgänger phenomena.[26]


In the field of digital marketing, the term has a specific meaning which is related to branding. When someone creates a negative portrait of a particular logo/brand of an entity, it is also known as doppelganger. A doppelganger brand image is a family of disparaging images and stories about a brand that are circulated in popular culture by a loosely organized network of consumers, anti brand activists, bloggers, and opinion leaders in the news and entertainment media.

However, doppelganger brand images not only affect well-known brands such as Starbucks, Apple, McDonald’s, or Nike. They can also significantly undermine the diffusion of technological innovations such as new machines, techniques, or medical drugs. Botox Cosmetic’s status as a legitimate self-enhancement drug, for example, has been routinely undermined by negative technology stories about deadly poison, frozen faces, mutilation, and addiction. Through changes in its brand delivery, however, these technophobic brand meanings have been successfully neutralized, and the drug has gained wider acceptance. Negative brand stories about an ineffective, monstrous, unecological, or otherwise harmful technology have also been an issue for a wide variety of brands and industries such as Procter & Gamble’s Olestra (food), Pfizer’s Viagra (pharmaceutical), and Toyota’s Prius (automotive). [27]

In Branding, this is commonly known as DPI ( Doppelganger Image). Some the famous examples of DPI are:

  1. Pepsi Logo : Pepsi created a new logo and soon enough the activist came up a image showing a healthy man plus the Pepsi logo transforming into a obese man. The idea was to reinforce the fact that Pepsi is unhealthy.
  2. Joe Camel : These were famous Cigarette brand. The logo of the happy and cool camel smoking was soon converted into a sick, depressed and lonely person and the name was tweaked from "Joe Camel" to " Joe Chemo".
  3. Maggi : Maggi is a very famous Nestle Instant noodles brand and loved globally.In 2015 a random lab test showed that the product has MSG and lead. The product was banned in the country. Maggi fans were disappointed and shocked and they adopted DBI to destroy the brand. A lot of funny images were circulated in the social media.The DBI campaign was so disruptive that factories producing Maggi were closed temporarily, and millions of dollars worth of stock was destroyed across the country. Meanwhile, for quite a long period these comedy memes kept on circulating on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc. Refer: A funny image developed by, Title of the work: (in Hindi Language) "Main aur meri Maggi - Wolverine edition.." which is translated as: "Me and My Maggi - Wolverine edition". The ad said featured a Wolverine and maggi packet with a fork and knife with a caption " Can i be wolverine now? I too have metal in me!"


The concepts of facial familiarity and similarity of people are of practical importance for criminologists due to the instances of wrongful convictions based on eyewitness testimony. In one case, a person spent 17 years behind bars persistently denying any involvement with the crime he was accused of. Eventually, he was released after a doppelganger sharing not only a striking resemblance, but also the same name, was located.[28] Increased reliance on video surveillance while dealing with offenses ranging from traffic infractions to bank robberies leads to situations when people are connected to events by images. Steve Tom of the TV series Major Crimes was issued a red-light camera ticket in Culver City, California despite denying being there at the time.[29] Mike Rowe of the TV show Somebody's Gotta Do It was linked to a bank heist in Medford, Oregon and had to respond on his Facebook page.[30] However, the forensic research suggested that the issue of full facial familiarity after being approached with the 8 metric dimensions methodology remained unproven, and that the statistical likeness to find two exact looking persons under these conditions is less than one in a trillion.[31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 2005.
  4. ^ Doppelgänger; Orthography, Meaning Synonyms
  5. ^ Leonard Zusne, Warren H. Jones (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-805-80507-9.
  6. ^ Ganander, Christfrid. Mythologia fennica; eller, Förklaring öfver de nomina propria deastrorum, idolorum, locorum, virorum, & c .. Abo, Tryckt i Frenckellska boktryckeriet, 1789.
  7. ^ Ijäs, Aura. “Tontut ja haltijat.” Tontuista ja haltijoista, Accessed 6 September 2017.
  8. ^ Webb, Stuart. Ghosts. New York, Rosen Pub., 2013.
  9. ^ Bane, Theresa. Encyclopedia of spirits and ghosts in world mythology. Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2016.
  10. ^ Frederick Burwick (8 November 2011). Playing to the Crowd: London Popular Theatre, 1780-1830. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 83–. ISBN 978-0-230-37065-4. 
  11. ^ Charles Williams. (1939). Descent into Hell. Faber and Faber.
  12. ^ Walton, Izaak. Life of Dr. John Donne. Fourth edition, 1675. Cited by Crowe in The Night-Side of Nature (1848).
  13. ^ Bald, R.C. John Donne: a Life. Oxford University Press, 1970.
  14. ^ Bennett, R.E. "Donne's Letters from the Continent in 1611-12." Philological Quarterly xix (1940), 66-78.
  15. ^ Betty T. Bennett. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1980. Volume 1, page 245.
  16. ^ Prometheus Unbound, lines 191-199.
  17. ^ The Autobiography of Wolfgang von Goethe. Translated by John Oxenford. Horizon Press, 1969. This example cited by Crowe in The Night-Side of Nature (1848).
  18. ^ Christina Hole (1950). Haunted England: A survey of English ghost-lore. B. T. Batsford. pp. 21–22. 
  19. ^ a b Mitchell, Laura (2017-05-18). "Man sits next to stranger who looks EXACTLY like him on plane". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  20. ^ a b Alderson, Maggie (2015-10-29). "Twin Strangers: The new website can find your doppelganger - but you may not be pleased with your matches". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  21. ^ "Twin Strangers Exist". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  22. ^ Geaney, Niamh (20 November 2015). Niamh meets her THIRD doppelgänger (YouTube video). 
  23. ^ 16
  24. ^ Damas Mora JM, Jenner FA, Eacott SE (1980). "On heautoscopy or the phenomenon of the double: Case presentation and review of the literature". Br J Med Psychol. 53 (1): 75–83. PMID 6989391. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8341.1980.tb02871.x. 
  25. ^ Blackmore S (1986). "Out-of-Body Experiences in Schizophrenia: A Questionnaire Survey". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 174 (10): 615–619. PMID 3760852. doi:10.1097/00005053-198610000-00006. 
  26. ^ Brugger, P; Agosti, R; Regard, M; Wieser, H. G; Landis, T (1994). "Heautoscopy, epilepsy, and suicide". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgergy and Psychiatry 57: 838-839.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Mary Emily O'Hara. Kansas Inmate Freed After Doppelganger Found 17 Years Later, NBC News, June 12, 2017.
  29. ^ Richard Winton. My ‘doppelganger’ did it: Actor says it was a man who could be his double who blew red light, Los-Angeles Times, July 31, 2016.
  30. ^ Henry Hanks. Mike Rowe mistaken for suspected bank robber, CNN, January 8, 2016.
  31. ^ Teghan Lucas and Maciej Henneberg. Are human faces unique? A metric approach to finding single individuals without duplicates in large samples, Forensic Science International, Volume 257, December 2015.
  32. ^ Zaria Gorvett . You are surprisingly likely to have a living doppelganger, BBC, 13 July 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brugger, P; Regard, M; Landis, T. (1996). Unilaterally Felt ‘‘Presences’’: The Neuropsychiatry of One’s Invisible Doppelgänger. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology 9: 114-122.
  • Keppler, C. F. (1972). The Literature of the Second Self. University of Arizona Press.
  • Maack, L. H; Mullen, P. E. (1983). The Doppelgänger, Disintegration and Death: A Case Report. Psychological Medicine 13: 651-654.
  • Miller, K. (1985). Doubles: Studies in Literary History. Oxford University Press.
  • Rank, O. (1971, originally published in German, Der Doppelgänger, 1914). The Double: A Psychoanalytic Study. The University of North Carolina Press.
  • Prel, Carl du, Die monistische Seelenlehre, Beitrag zur Lösung des Menschenrätsels, Leipzig, Günthers Verlag, 1888.
  • Reed, G. F. (1987). Doppelgänger. In Gregory R. L. The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford University Press. pp. 200–201.
  • Todd, J; Dewhurst, K. (1962). The Significance of the Doppelgänger (Hallucinatory Double) in Folklore and Neuropsychiatry. Practitioner 188: 377-382.
  • Todd, J; Dewhurst, K. (1955). The Double: Its Psycho-Pathology and Psycho-Physiology. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 122: 47-55.
  • Hill, David A. How I Met Myself. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 9780521750189

External links[edit]